Arts & Leisure

“Narcos 2” feels like fiction, but it’s not

"NARCOS 2" continues the story of the rise and fall of Columbian drug cartels.

“NARCOS 2” continues the story of the rise and fall of Columbian drug cartels.

By Thom deMartino

Pablo Escobar: ground-breaking entrepreneur, doting father, devoted husband – ruthless killer.

Netflix’s hit docudrama “Narcos” returns for its sophomore season, putting rubber to the road immediately: picking up mere moments after the conclusion of season 1, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) has escaped a prison literally of his own design, while relentlessly pursued by both the Colombian military, as well as American DEA special agents Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) and Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook.)

tv-review-logoIt’s a story you’d think could only be fiction — but you’d be wrong. We’re introduced to the charismatic Escobar in the first season, observing his dizzying rise to power as he consolidates the various smaller cartel families beneath him, streamlining an originally sluggish cocaine trade into a high-volume, money-making machine (at one point, bringing in more than $70 million per day, even spending $1000 a week on rubber bands alone to wrap his excess of cash.) Beloved in the slums of his home town of Medellín, he is looked up to as a sort of “Robin Hood” for his philanthropic investments in the local community, becoming a kind of folk hero.

But the dark side of the popular figure is terrifying: when a presumptive Colombian presidential candidate proposes agreeing with the American government for extradition for drug traffickers, Escobar (allegedly) has him assassinated. When the sitting president agrees to new extradition laws, the drug lord retaliates with numerous terror attacks and bombings, including targeted murders of police officers. His Medellín cartel even picks a fight with the competing Cali cartel, a war that would continue for the rest of his infamous career.

Meanwhile, Agents Peña and Murphy are stymied by red tape and corruption within the Search Bloc, the police agency tasked with the capture (or killing) of Escobar and his sicarios (assassins.) But the government, under pressure to stop the attacks, has agreed to his negotiations for his own surrender: including building his own prison (called La Catedral,) staffed by his own hand-chosen guards, with the Colombian police unable to approach within two miles of the compound.

After his escape, however, all bets are off. The largest manhunt in Colombian history begins, while the drug kingpin himself is desperate to get back home to his wife Tata (Paulina Gaitan) and his children. And while those who live by the sword may die by the sword, there is a potential — even literal — river of blood guaranteed by Escobar from those who he sees as having betrayed or oppressing him.

Season 1 of “Narcos” laid the groundwork: season 2 becomes a study in how far a man will go for justice, or revenge — and the point at which that line blurs. Case in point: the leader of the Search Bloc, Horacio Carrillo (Maurice Compte) has no problem taking the tactics of his enemy as his own, his methods of interrogation and punishment being as ruthless — perhaps even beyond — Escobar’s own. Deals with the devil are struck, with the viewers privy to the extremes a man may go to for recompense.

Brutal, riveting, and as ultimately addicting as the controlled substance it revolves around, “Narcos” season 2 leaves the audience begging for more: and with (spoiler) the final line, “How much do you know about the Cali cartel?” the audience may just be looking forward to another fix in 2017.

“Narcos” season 2 is now available for streaming on Netflix.

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